Letter: Flaws in anti-Amendment 66 letter
Let’s hope that Joyce Rankin’s Sept. 21 letter opposing state Amendment 66, the ballot proposal to increase statewide school funding by $1 billion, isn’t representative of the debate we’re going to see leading up to this year’s election.
For those who missed it, Mrs. Rankin correctly observed that Roaring Fork Re-1 students’ reading and writing tests scores declined last year, after district voters approved a $4.8 million funding increase. Meanwhile, Garfield Re-2 students’ test scores improved after its voters rejected a proposed $3 million school funding increase.
Mrs. Rankin appears to be suggesting that more school funding produces lower test scores, while less funding leads to higher scores. So presumably by continuing to underfund Colorado’s public schools — currently ranked 42nd in the U.S. in per-pupil spending — we should expect even better statewide student achievement. Right?
I won’t belabor the flaws in this logic. But it’s worth noting that schools’ test results often fluctuate from year to year as different students move through the grades. Test results also are affected by many factors besides funding, including teacher training, curriculum, parent and community involvement and schools’ percentage of second-language students. So pinning down the actual causes of changing test results can be far from simple, especially over relatively short periods.
The Re-2 school district deserves congratulations for its improved test scores. But if avoiding tax hikes is really the key to its success, then why have so many Re-2 parents been moving their kids into Re-1 schools since the defeated Re-2 mill levy increase led officials there to reduce classes to four days a week? And why has enrollment climbed to near-record levels at Glenwood Springs’ middle and high schools?
Perhaps Mrs. Rankin’s letter was intended to be funny. If so, I’m not laughing.
Colorado’s school funding deserves serious discussion — not reflexively partisan rhetoric that oversimplifies both the problems and solutions. We’re dealing here with a complex issue made more difficult by three conflicting state constitutional amendments. And the fundamental questions for voters are, will Amendment 66 make things better or worse, and is it worth the cost?
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